Business Journey Guidebook - Glamping & Tourism

Having a business idea is amazing, but it can be daunting to know where to start and what to do. These Business Journey Guidebooks are The Business Barn's step by step guide, starting at the start and following logically through as you plan and develop your business. In each stage you will find links to articles with more information, together with suggestions of businesses that can help you along the way. All of the businesses listed are part of our trusted Rural Business Network.

Here are a few really useful articles to help you fine tune your business plans:

Businesses that can help with this stage:

Business consultants:

Glamping consultants:

Holiday letting advice:

Step 1 - Feasibility

Before taking the plunge and investing time and money into a new business, you need to do your homework and work out if the business is feasible and viable. Carrying out a feasibility includes looking at operational limitations, market research about whether there is a need or demand for your business and what is the competition, will you get planning permission, what might stop the project, how much money will you make, how much will you have to spend to start it, how is it going to be run and much more.

Here are some useful articles on feasibility:

Businesses that can help with this stage:

Business consultants:

Glamping consultants:

Letting advice:

Step 2a - Business Planning & Budgeting

Writing a business plan can be hugely beneficial, and most would argue essential in planning and starting a business. Be it a 3 month, 3 year or even longer plan, it will help you create your vision and give you a framework to work to. If you need to borrow money for your project, a lender will always expect to see a full business plan and budgets.

Here are some useful articles to help you start:

Step 2b - Getting quotes

When you come to prepare some budgets, you will need to have a really firm handle on what things are going to cost. Whilst it's time-consuming and laborious, the best thing you can do is start ringing around to get quotes for various elements. For a glamping and tourism business, your main costs are going to be:

Capital (mainly one-off start-up costs)

  • Obtaining planning permission including consultants and surveys
  • Utilities (water, electric, drainage - clean and dirty, internet)
  • Groundworks and infrastructure
  • The unit of accommodation or conversion / building cost
  • Setting up a website / branding

Ongoing costs

  • Cost of sales - commission to letting agent, booking fee
  • Any 'gifts' E.g. hamper
  • Labour - cleaning, maintenance
  • Insurance
  • Running a vehicle
  • Telephones / internet costs
  • Website and other marketing costs
  • Professional fees
  • Finance costs including repayment and interest

Step 3 - Planning Permission

Most projects that involve the siting of accommodation or the change of use / conversion of buildings will require planning consent or a permitted development notification to the Local Planning Authority. Some projects may also require Listed Building Consent. Generally it is advisable to use a planning consultant - they know the Council, can advise on the strategy / approach and will often ensure a quicker more straightforward and success process. Sometimes you will need to involve architects to prepare drawings, sometimes the accommodation manufacturer will supply them. In many instances you will also need supporting technical reports, topographical surveys, highways statements, tree surveys, heritage assessments and more.

TOP TIP: Remember a planning application can take much longer than you might anticipate, so allow plenty of time.

Businesses that can help with this stage:

Planning consultants:


Topographical surveys:

Businesses that can help with this stage:


For help with grant applications:

Step 4 - Financing the project

There are many ways to finance your project, our advice is to speak to various lenders and compare the options and costs. There are traditional options such as loans, overdrafts, equipment finance and mortgages, and newer options such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending.

Top tip: Before you approach a lender, get a business plan and budgets in place - work out how much you need to borrow, and how long you will need it for.

From time to time grants are available - check out what is available HERE.

Here are some really useful articles and documents on financing diversification projects:

Step 5 - Structuring your business

Reasonably soon into planning your project, you should consider how to set up and structure your business. Should you run the glamping or tourism project in with the farm, or separate to the farm? How should it be structured for tax? What effect could it or will it have on the farming business, and therefore the people in the business? Is it better as a Limited Company? There are lots of factors to consider in answering these questions, so there is no generic answer. We recommend you take an hour or two of initial professional advice from an accountant or other specialist; a relatively small investment that could save you thousands in the long term.

Step 6 - Money!

Really the most important step of all - if you don't sort out the money side to things, then your business won't last long. Getting your price point correct is vital, and the only way of doing this is through lots of research. Make a spreadsheet of what everyone locally is charging, and for what type of accommodation. Ask yourself, how does it vary from what you are offering, is yours worth more or less? If it is a unique accommodation, look further afield, what are people charging for the next most comparable type? Once you have decided on how much you are going to charge, you need options to take payment. If you use a booking website, it will be built in and you don't need to worry about it. If not, you might need to consider a card machine. As soon as you start trading, you will need to keep all of your 'books' up together, which is keeping invoices, receipts etc from payments out and in. If you are VAT registered you will need to submit periodic VAT returns (remember to check with your accountant about charging VAT). If you can afford to, consider getting a specialist book keeper. There are some really good cloud accounting software packages like Xero, which are easy to use. Lastly you will need to appoint an accountant to keep your books, do your annual tax returns.

Step 7 - Branding

At some point before you start trading, you will have to 'brand' your site or accommodation. Branding broadly means how you identify and convey what it is you are selling, including a name, a logo, the general look, maybe fonts used, colours used, what your key message or USP (unique selling point) is and so on.

This is a huge subject and there are loads of articles on our website and the internet about it, but a good place to start is by asking yourself these questions:

1) Who is your target market? Is it families, couples, or groups?

2) What is your selling point? Try and define it. Are you rustic, rural, modern, quirky, accessible, remote, picturesque, classic, practical?

Once you have refined what you are and who you appeal to, try to design your name, logo and look in-line with who you are aiming at. For example, a practical family glamping site will probably have a different look and message to a romantic rural retreat.

For most smaller start-up or medium size expanding sites, working with a smaller local marketing and design company will be a great place to start. Get quotes and / or set a budget.

TOP TIP: Be clear to the company you engage with about your message. Give them examples of what you do and don't like, and if they aren't delivering what you have asked them to, don't be afraid to say so.

Step 8 - Marketing

Marketing is a very broad term that covers every aspect in you promoting your glamping site or tourism accommodation. Once you have branded yourself, you are now in a position to start telling everyone about what you are doing, in fact your aim is to shout it from the rooftops! Marketing is a minefield and an art. Some people enjoy it and do it themselves by reading, learning, and trial and error. For others it's not their bag and they would far rather let someone else do it for them. There is no right and wrong amount to spend on marketing, you will have to work out your own budget, or get someone to advise you and guide you, and then adjust according to the results you are getting / what money you have available for marketing.

Marketing can cover all aspects, and is often broken down into digital and traditional marketing - although most 'marketers' would say you need to create a marketing mix which incorporates both together.

Website, social media, online advertising, pay-per-click, re-marketing, PR, advertising, networking, speaking at events are all examples. You won't be able to do it all to start with, so prioritise according to your target market.

Step 9 - Booking & letting

There are many ways of letting your holiday accommodation. Some businesses only have their own website or AirBnB, some only let with specialised letting agents, some use third party websites. Different sites with different offerings work best in different ways, there is no recommended option. The advice we would offer is that the bigger companies have enormous budgets to use in paid digital advertising, and you may find it difficult to compete by yourself to start with. One suggestion is going with one or more letting agent in the first year or two, and see how you get on. You may find one works better for you than another.

Here is a great article by Ted Howard Jones from Countryside Marketing on the subject:

Booking systems can be tricky to navigate, as not many integrate with all letting agents. Talk to various providers and see what fits best for you.

There is a great list on this article to start you off:

Step 10 - Don't forget the legals

There are lots of practical and legal issues to remember, a few of them we list below:

  • Site licensing - unless you are exempt, you are likely to need a site licence. You should find out from your local council.
  • Setting up Terms and Conditions - make sure you have a clear contract with your visitors, this is normally in the form of getting them to agree to your site's T&Cs. Your solicitor would be able to help prepare these. It will help ensure you have a fallback position if you disagree with anyone, and also protect you with some liability.
  • Insurance - ensure you have the correct insurance in place for visitors on the farm
  • Health and Safety - boring but VERY important to mitigate any future liability. There are health and safety specialists that can help you with the risk assessments and any written documentation or training that you might need
  • Quality assessment schemes - do you need to be a member of any schemes?
  • Business rates - any commercial business may be liable for business rates, seek advice in this area

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